Ana Tijoux Puente Arizona Headquarters Sunday, May 13, 2012
While most of us celebrated Mother's Day with flowers, cards, and family dinners, Latina rapper Ana Tijoux spent the afternoon receiving a crash course in Arizona's twisted political landscape and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's regime. Her "Arizona-fication," as it were.
The French-born Chilean was a guest of Phoenix's human rights movement, Puente, in a celebration of women at Sunday night's Noche de Mujeres en Resistencia festival.
Puente used the platform to create dialogue about the struggles Latinos have faced under Arpaio's strict thumb, while addressing Tucson's ban on ethnic studies and empowering women with musical performances by Tijoux, Los Angeles-based rapper Cihuatl Ce, and an all-female mariachi band.
As a child born in exile, Tijoux is no stranger to civil unrest: Her parents fled Chile during the rule of former dictator Augosto Pinochet. Since her return to the country, she has bolstered her social consciousness by focusing on political uprisings around the world. She lent her voice to the group as a sign of solidarity.
I showed up to the festivities just as the mariachi band wrapped up, which gave me some time to walk the parking lot of Puente's downtown headquarters, where the bright orange building served as the backdrop to a small makeshift stage. Fresh fruit and other food was offered, as well as "Arrest Arpaio Not the People" T-shirts, jade-encrusted jewelry, and skeleton-shaped earrings.
It seemed the least-likely place for an underground hip-hop show, and the night pretty much followed suit.
Cihuatl Ce grabbed a hold of the microphone next and used desperate gasps and a raspy voice to spit out angry verses like "We are the women, the women you've been warned about," and repeating the mantra "When education's under attack, what do we do? Fight back."
The shoddy sound system held up for most of her 30-minute set, with only minor reverb, and all but gave out once Tijoux finally took the stage.
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Unfortunately, much of Tijoux's rhythmic prose was distorted by seemingly blown out speakers and lots of feedback. The Chilean MC was a good sport about it, though, and didn't let it faze her as she rapped through hits like "Shock" and "1977." Between songs, she talked about the similarities between Arizona and Chile, where students have been protesting in the name of free and quality education.
After her hourlong, set she hung around to shake hands with fans and pose for pictures.
Tijoux got a chance to scope out Tent City on Sunday, and Puente plans to give her a firsthand look at Operation Streamline today. Who knows, maybe she'll find some inspiration in all this madness?